Wednesday, December 9, 2015


As I've previously admitted here, I am obsessed with the new science of gut bacteria. In the past 5+ years, scientists have begun to suggest that our intestinal bacterial flora might have a far more significant influence on our health that anyone could have previously imagined, and its unbalances might contribute to a variety of ailments such as asthmaobesity, and diabetes. Many even argue that gut bacteria may strongly influence the brain in how we think and feel, playing "a crucial role in autism, anxiety, depression, and other disorders", according to this article published in the Atlantic a few months ago.

The idea that gut bacteria might dictate brain function is simply astonishing to me. Microscopic organisms in our bellies telling us how to feel and think? Isn't that amazing? Why have we never thought about this before? After all, it makes perfect sense. There is an average of 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut (yeah, trillions), and it's perfectly reasonable that they would contribute to a lot more than the occasional bout of diarrhea due to shitty takeout food.

Think it about this way: Imagine an alien race decided to solve climate change on Earth while ignoring the role of the humans living on it. I can see them trying to refreeze the Earth's ice caps with their alien technology, while us humans keep driving SUVs all over the place with the AC blasting and melting everything all over again. The lesson is, don't ignore the parasites.

Gut bacteria
Think about it: You can't spell "colonize" without "colon".

What truly excites me about all this, however, are the sci-fi implications. I see gut bacteria as alien colonists, acting as a shadow government for the brain. It reminds me of The Matrix. We were all fascinated by that movie because it spoke to us about a life under totalitarianism with a collective loss of consciousness, but what if the true puppeteers in our lives were not corporations and secret evil interests, but these microscopic prehistoric beings traveling inside food and hiding in plain sight along the creases and folds of our bowels?

And the situation gets even more complicated, because gut bacteria varies wildly and can be altered by diet, illnesses, and medication. So we could see bacteria as transient populations with their own history and culture and whose fortune is determined by the capricious lifestyle of their hosts. At times they might be blessed by a glass of kefir. Another time they are attacked by a foreign bacterial army living in a poorly-reheated clam chowder. And finally they are get exterminated by an apocalyptic run of antibiotics.

The possibilities are endless, and I could even go for a psychological angle. Because if gut bacteria can really influence our actions and tell our brain to make us depressed or happy, then I'll even argue that gut bacteria might even end up being our collective unconscious, the Jungian idea of a primordial wisdom nested just below our consciousness (How far below? Right under our belly button but above our sphincter, apparently.)

So, that unique, beautiful mark of humanity and its deepest moral compass which many religions call the Soul? Scientists may still be silent about this, but I'm betting it's made of yogurt.

Carl Gustav Jung
So Dead Chef has a post with a picture of Jung.
This blog can't be that stupid, then, can it?

Netflix suggestion: This whole thing reminds me of one of my favorite episodes of Futurama, titled Parasites Lost, in which Fry eats an egg salad sandwich from a vending machine and gets a worm infestation that makes his body indestructible and his brain super intelligent (please, please, please watch it on Netflix, series 3, episode 2).

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